On any given night, anywhere from a dozen to 18 of the city’s most vulnerable citizens lay down their heads in bed bug infested rooms at a dilapidated facility wanting for even the most basic of housekeeping efforts.
Their daily menu, as aptly described by lawyer advocate Elena Dempsey, is appalling not appealing.
And now, we find out these residents of Walnut Manor will not even benefit from the simple comfort of knowing their long-past-the-best-before-date hovel will be equipped with a life-saving sprinkler system.
Why is it other residential care facilities in St. Thomas are mandated to install sprinkler systems by the end of the year and yet this independent supportive living home operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland is exempt from this regulation?
Why is it, once again, the residents of Walnut Manor fall through the cracks?
In a conversation this week with fire prevention officer Bill Todd, he explained the existing provincial legislation is strictly for care occupancy facilities.
“It (Walnut Manor) is just boarding and lodging,” advised Todd, “it is not a home for special care.
“It is hard to put it as a care occupancy (facility) because those are places where people require care physically and mentally. He (owner Vishal Chityal) falls under boarding and lodging. That is how he can get around the sprinkler part.”
Todd is not reneging on any responsibility on the part of the St. Thomas Fire Department. He would like nothing better than to nail Chityal on this one, in the name of fire safety.
Regular fire inspections are one way to keep tabs on compliance at Walnut Manor, assures Todd.
“We were in there earlier this year for an inspection . . . but they are under boarding and lodging (regulations) so they only have to abide by normal fire code issues.”
No matter which regulations may apply, St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services Director Elizabeth Sebestyen says there should be sprinklers.
Speaking with her Friday (Dec. 14) Sebestyen advises she has been in talks with Todd on this very matter.
“In the meantime, I’m working with the CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) on harmonizing the standards of care and introducing some kind of a licencing procedure. We’re not quite at the point where I’m ready to go to city council with a report and a recommendation.
“We have to figure out who will do the licencing and how much will that be. We have to make sure certain standards are upheld over there. I know there are continuing problems going on all the time over there.”
As to the classification of a care occupancy facility, Sebestyen wonders “If the definition is based on who lives there, anybody can move in or out at any time and then, all of a sudden, it qualifies and then next month it doesn’t.
She continues, “If it’s a safety concern to have sprinklers, then this one (Walnut Manor) should be treated just the same as all the other ones.”
So, let’s cut to the chase. Would the municipality have the authority to require a sprinkler system as part of a licencing bylaw?
“That’s a good question,” concedes Sebestyen. “We could look at that . . . We’ve got some different tools and we just have to figure out how to work them together. It seems to make sense we have the same set of standards for all of the homes. Have harmonized standards and come up with a licencing system that would apply to all of them.”
So, who would do the monitoring, collect and keep the fees?
“We’re figuring that all out right now,” says Sebestyen. “You have to be careful how you move forward with this. We have to make sure we cover everything this time and nobody can fall through the cracks.”
ALMA DEVELOPMENT TAKES A ‘CHEEKY’ TURN
The three-tower residential development proposed for the Alma College property on Moore Street cleared a major hurdle this past week with the city’s site plan control committee endorsing a motion recommending council give final approval to the application and plans presented by Patriot Properties.
Several conditions are attached to the endorsement including an update to the arborist report, based on a final review by the city’s arborist.
Concerns were raised at Wednesday’s meeting by Moore Street resident Dawn Doty and Sue Fortin-Smith regarding the number of trees to be removed, including the fate of a ginko tree not expected to survive during construction.
Fortin-Smith of St. Thomas is a registered professional planner and former chair of the city’s Municipal Heritage Committee.
Also attached as a condition is confirmation of the execution of a heritage easement agreement between the city and the property owner.
In a letter from developer Michael Loewith, he stressed ““The proposed development will be a part of, and contribute to the wellbeing of the greater St. Thomas community.”
The letter accompanied updated supporting documents presented to the site plan control committee in response to questions and concerns raised at a meeting held Nov. 13.
That meeting dealt with technical aspects of Patriot Properties’ application for development of the former school for girls.
In spite of revisions made to various aspects of the undertaking, Doty still challenged Loewith and his development team on a number of points.
She continued to urge Loewith to construct an entrance to the property closer to the London & Port Stanley Railway corridor to alleviate traffic concerns on Moore and McIntyre streets.
Likewise, Doty is convinced properties she owns on Moore Street will be in shadows cast by one of the towers for an unacceptably long period of time in the winter.
That prompted a short, sharp exchange between the two when Loewith wondered aloud if she was more concerned about renting out those residences with better properties to be located across the street.
“Well, isn’t that cheeky,” shot back Doty.
She also vigorously challenged an urban design review she requested at the previous meeting.
In a written presentation to the committee, Fortin-Smith noted: “It is apparent this review was completed with a very tight timeframe and contains some errors, questionable assessments and omissions which partially are the result of the documentation provided and the ‘armchair’ approach to the exercise.”
Loewith’s development team confirmed no one involved in the urban design review actually visited the property.
A revelation that prompted Doty to suggest another review might be in order “where someone actually comes to the site to get a feel for the neighbourhood.”
Council has already approved in principle the development and final approval of the project is expected early next year, although that is not the last obstacle in the path of Loewith and Patriot Properties.
Commencement of work is contingent upon rescinding a 2008 Ontario Municipal Board order requiring any development on the Alma property must “include a faithful and accurate representation of the front facade of the college building.”
TO SELL OR NOT TO SELL
Communities in the province have until Jan. 22 of next year to decide whether they wish to allow a cannabis retail store to operate in their municipality.
City council will get the first run through Monday on the ins and outs of the process via a report from city manager Wendell Graves.
The purpose of his report “is to highlight how the retail sale of marijuana will affect the city, to highlight potential impacts and to define the option available to the city to either opt in or opt out of allowing retail establishments to operate within the city.”
“. . . issues relating to the use of cannabis will still be present in the city because the products will be available outside of the city and through online sources.”
Graves highlights a couple of significant considerations.
While there will be no limit to the number of licenses that can be requested or issued within any given municipality, the regulations surrounding the location of retail cannabis stores dictates they cannot be located within 150 metres (500 feet) of a school.
In addition, a municipality is prohibited from developing any specific zoning relating to a retail cannabis store. That is, a cannabis store must be allowed within any zone in a municipality that permits general retail uses.”
Graves points out, “The effective management of cannabis issues within the municipality will come as a result of key stakeholders working together, initially for St. Thomas that will include the St. Thomas Police Service, Southwest Public Health and city administration.”
And, he cautions “Regardless of whether or not the city opts in or out to allow cannabis retail stores, fundamentally, issues relating to the use of cannabis will still be present in the city because the products will be available outside of the city and through online
Should the city opt in, it would receive two lump sum payments from the province with the first, in the amount of $44,320 to be received early next month.
The second payment, the amount yet to be determined, would be forwarded to the city after the Jan. 22 opt-out date.
As outlined in Graves’ report, “It will be up to the local municipality to in turn manage an equation for the distribution of the revenues stream with its law enforcement and public health partners.”
Graves is recommending the city opt in to allow cannabis retail stores, with the proviso his report “be posted on the city website and that a copy of it be forwarded to the St. Thomas Police Service, Southwest Public Health, the Downtown Development Board and to the Chamber of Commerce to allow for a period of comment to be made.”
He further recommends the matter be brought back to council for its decision on Jan. 14.
THE READERS WRITE
Tim Hedden’s very brief response to last week’s post about MP-wannabe Lori Baldwin-Sands filing her nomination papers seeking the nod as Elgin-Middlesex-London Liberal candidate in next year’s federal vote says it all.
In an initial text message, he simply writes “Lori running for the Libs . . . Well, I for one am shocked.”
That was followed up by this succinct text, “Sigh”
Tim, if you remember, campaigned for a city councillor seat and, at the all-candidates gathering held Oct. 11, he closed out his two-minute time slot by pointing out Baldwin-Sands’ aspiration of seeking a higher office.
His final comment that evening hit the mark.
“I am here to serve you for four years, not until a better job comes along.”
If it’s any consolation, Tim, buy a lottery ticket today because the likelihood of you winning are greater than the object of your attention landing that better job.
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